MESA (AP) — A Roman Catholic priest was found guilty Thursday of sexually abusing boys in his Arizona parishes after a trial which included testimony from four Indiana men who said they were also molested by the priest years before.
Jurors found the Rev. Paul LeBrun guilty after three weeks of testimony. LeBrun, 49, has been jailed since 2003, and now faces between 81 and 110 years in prison. LeBrun was posted at Little Flower Catholic Church in South Bend before being removed from public ministry in 1999.
Although he has been stripped of his priestly duties, LeBrun remains a member of the Catholic clergy.
The Diocese of Phoenix released a statement Thursday afternoon calling the legal process "a long and arduous journey for all involved in this case." The statement said the diocese hopes the trial's end brings "closure, healing and reconciliation."
The church statement also reaffirmed its policy of assisting authorities in investigating abuse.
LeBrun is the first priest from the Phoenix area whose case went through trial since the Catholic sex scandal broke nearly four years ago. Other local cases ended in plea bargains, and two priests fled the country.
LeBrun stood trial on eight counts of sexual conduct with a minor and five counts of child molestation. They returned the six guilty verdicts but couldn't reach agreements on five others. One other count was dropped and LeBrun was acquitted of one count.
Prosecutors alleged during the trial that LeBrun took advantage of young boys in Arizona and Indiana whose parents were abusive, divorced or who were abandoned by their fathers, according to the posted Thursday on The Arizona Republic's Web site.
"He was basically a wolf in sheep's clothing," Prosecutor Suzanne Cohen said. "Everything he did was to get close to these little boys. Everything he did was to abuse these little boys."
Defense attorney Ken Huls said the accusers didn't step forward for decades and are motivated by greed. He noted that four of the accusers have filed civil suits, and three have felony convictions.
LeBrun was accused of abusing Arizona boys ranging from age 11 to 16 from 1986 to 1991 at two suburban Phoenix churches — St. John Vianney Church and the Blessed Sacrament Church.
Four Indiana accusers ranging from ages 9 to 13 said they were abused between 1979 and 1986. LeBrun cannot be tried for those alleged crimes because the statute of limitations in Indiana has expired.